I asked a high level Quebec official this past week what lessons France could draw from the Quebec shale fiasco and his first reaction was to roll his eyes. But he then went on to repeat the official line that Quebec does not have a moratorium, they are studying the issue further. He then opined that one cannot have magical thinking or magical legislation: Shale is a reality that can't be wished away.
As I've said before, the death of French shale has been exaggerated. One might think reading the press that shale is dead in France, should read the third paragraph here not the first:
FRANCE has become the first country in the world to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, used to mine for shale gas and oil.
Senators last night voted in favour of a ban by 176 votes to 151, with the support coming mostly from members of President Sarkozy's UMP party. The law had already been approved by the National Assembly in May.
The Socialist party voted against the law, saying it did not go far enough. The draft legislation had originally banned shale gas exploration completely, but the government is keen to leave other mining options open.
Shale will be resurrected in France for various reasons. The most obvious is that one can't legislate againsts physical reality. Huge volumes of gas and oil remain under the soil of France, under French law they are part of the national patrimony, and wishing them away is not an option. What France will do is to have a year off, that's all. This time next year, the geology of France will still be there, but the political reality after the Presidential and legislative elections will be shift. What will also change is that shale technology will power on and France will start to ask themselves what they are really giving up and how much it is costing them as it gives a cost advantage to competitors. That will start with the studies of shale gas reality as opposed to shale gas as entertainment or street theatre.
The problem with France is it's impact on the rest of Europe. The perception that if France has banned shale so why don't we is going to ripple across Europe. France will be the negative example for shale just as many opponents have held up New York as an example to be followed.
But shale antis should be careful of what they wish for. In New York, opposition can be divided into the ultra leave it in the ground wing or another wing that thought that regulating shale heavily would have the same effect.
But, it now seems that New York State will offer the moderate wing all that they wished for, and that more importantly, the industry doesn't really have a problem with that. Full disclsoure? Without any hesitation. Recycled water? Why not? Fix the roads? Of course! Basically any objection can be met and hit on the head. Which will mean the anti shale ultras will be feeling even more mean. They will make a lot of noise: but they will be isolated. The battle in New York State is not left/right Democrat/Republican or green/oil, it is the age old split between upstate and New York City which has been going on for two hundred years already. The shale ultras will go and vote Green and get Republican and really shoot themselves in the foot.
Shale opponents believed their own narrative of the industry as inherently dirty, nasty, short-sighted and evil. Just as the reality of drilling escaped them, so too did the reality of gas and oil companies. The good/bad black/white narrative of evil gas and oil is not only simplistic, it's not even realistic. If any company had found a successful business plan based on poisoning the same people who use the product, I have yet to hear of one. Much of the shale opposition seems to have even less understanding of how a business operates than they do of geology, hydrology, chemistry or physics.
What will happen now is that most US players will be more than happy to drill upstate. The Southern Tier sits on top of the best parts of Pennsylvania's Marcellus acreage. A few regulations more or less won't keep that those volume of gas, or oil in the ground be it in the Ile de France or Ithaca.